Nobody asked me, but……….There are three weeks left on the high school football regular-season slate so I thought it might be interesting to a look ahead since most coaches will tell you they tell their players to, “Take it one game at a time.”
Since I am not 100 percent sure how many teams will make it into the NCHSAA state payoffs in each group – usually 1A teams with losing records have the best chance – I am just going see where the local (Dixon, Pender, Topsail, & Trask) teams stand now and what lies ahead, and who I think has the best and least chance of making it into the playoffs with a seed decent enough to allow them to maybe stay at home for a game or two.
Let’s start closest to home with Topsail. I think the Pirates play in what is perhaps the toughest 2A conference in the area with Northside-Jacksonville (8-0, 4-0), cruising along undefeated and East Duplin (7-1, 4-0) moving along at a pretty good pace.
The top seed out of the East Central 2A Conference will be decided on Oct. 26 in Jacksonville. My opinion – Northside wins that game and gets the top seed and East Duplin rolls in at No. 2 and gets at least one home game.
That leaves a battle for No. 3 and I think that will come down to Topsail (4-3, 2-2) and Croatan (4-3, 2-2) and that will be decided this Friday in Hampstead. Why, you might ask? Well Croatan has two games left, after Topsail, at South Lenoir (1-7, 0-4) and home against Richlands (3-5, 2-2) and I really don’t see them losing either one of those.
Topsail is home next Friday (Oct. 19) against Richlands and although the Wildcats have shown they can score points (163) they also give up a ton (203) and I do not see them shutting down the Pirates.
The last game for Topsail is at Swansboro (3-5, 0-4) and that is a tough game, especially since it will probably be their Homecoming game. But the Onslow-County Pirates are 0-4 in the conference for a reason, and they will probably get battered by East Duplin the week before the Topsail game, so I like Topsail’s chances there.
Comparative scores meet little – I think matchups are more important – but just for argument’s sake, Croatan lost 41-13 to Northside and 14-0 to East Duplin, and they beat Clinton (at home) 14-6.
Topsail lost 26-21 to East Duplin on a last-second touchdown set up by a mental mistake on a blocked punt, and they fell 35-10 to Northside while beating Clinton (on the road) 28-14.
What that says is these two teams appear to be close. Topsail has scored 168 points and given up 137. Croatan has scored 108 and given up 121. Still relative close! But I really like Topsail’s (homer) chances because they are slowly getting healthy and they have found depth during the early part of the season and, with all due respect to David Perry, the Pirates have Bryan Davis.
Perry is primarily a wrestling coach and athletic director that coaches football. Davis is a football coach. That, I think, will make a difference.
Next best chance, believe it or not, lies in Holly Ridge with Dixon. The Bulldogs are 3-3 and 1-1 in the Coastal Plains 1A Conference. In my eyes, having lost to conference favorite Southwest Onslow, they only have one tough game left – Lejeune.
The Devilpups are 4-4 and 2-0 in the conference but they finish up – in order –with Pamlico (1-5, 1-1) in Bayboro, home against the Stallions (6-1, 2-0) and at Dixon. Let’s assume they go 1-1 before Dixon. That means second place and a home game could be on the line.
Now the Bulldogs are a bit of an enigma. They can be good at times, and not so good at times. But they are 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference with games at Jones, Sr. (0-7, 0-2) – and forget the record the Trojans are always tough in Trenton – at East Carteret (1-6, 0-2) and home against Lejeune.
Since Jones has given up 30 points a game (240) in seven games while scoring just 53 (7.5 points-per-game) I like Dixon’s chances here. The same can be said for the game at East Carteret although I think that long ride on an activity bus can be somewhat detrimental. The Mariners are yielding points at a higher clip (260 or 37.6 per game) than Jones and they have managed just 126 (18 per game) on offense, and that makes me think the Bulldogs can pull this one off, too.
So Lejeune plays at Dixon on Oct. 26 for second in the conference. Lejeune is equal opportunity on offense and defense (195 on both), while Dixon has scored 159 and given up 147.
Comparative games include Swansboro and Spring Creek. Both beat Spring Creek and both lost to Swansboro, so nothing there. But here I go again. I like the home-field advantage. Second place here will be decided by turnovers, or a lack of them.
Pender is on the fence in the Tri-County 1A Conference depending on how many teams make the playoffs. The Patriots are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference but they have Wallace-Rose Hill (5-3, 4-0 and on a four-game conference win streak) coming to Burgaw this week and they head to Salemburg next Friday (Oct. 16) for a game against a pretty decent Lakewood (5-2, 2-2) team. That leaves the season finale at Trask on Oct. 26, and I’ll give them that one.
Pender needs at least one win in the next two games. The Patriots have already lost to Union, who is currently at 2-2 in the conference. Another loss could be hard to overcome. Even if they do make it, they are likely headed for a road game against a decidedly higher-seeded team. It’s a tough road ahead.
Which brings us to Trask and – come on – how can you not feel sorry for these kids. They lost their coach to illness, and their starting quarterback to injury, and they have lost all seven of their games, including a 24-6 loss last week to lowly Hobbton.
Knowing Bill Mercier like I do, I do not believe these kids have, or will, fold the tent. After all, the last game is a neighborhood rivalry game with Pender. But the schedule still has Union (4-4, 2-2) at home, James Kenan (7-0, 4-0) on the road – GULP! – and Pender at home.
I honestly don’t see any “V’s”there….Sorry Titans!
That’s my opinion, what do you see?
Nobody asked me but……..Five weeks into the National Football League season and there are just two unbeaten teams remaining – Houston and Atlanta. That might be a bit of a surprise in itself but how about 1-3 Oakland, or 1-3 Detroit, or 1-4 New Orleans?
Now we all knew the Saints would have some troubles, but 1-4? Along with that the Jets have been horrible outside of the Buffalo game and they play Houston tonight (Monday).
I like Houston, they are young and hungry, and they play in a weak division with Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Tennessee. Yes, they have tough games ahead with Baltimore (home), Green Bay (home), and New England (away) but the rest of the schedule looks winnable.
The Falcons are tough, too. Ahead on their agenda are the Philadelphia Eagles (away) and the Dallas Cowboys (home), back-to-back, and that won’t be easy. They also have the New Orleans Saints (home and away) and the New York Giants at home but even if they were to lose all five – and they won’t – that’s still 11-5 and probably good enough to win the division.
In the NFC I still like my Eagles in the East. They are 3-2 with a win already over the Giants and if they can ever get Michael Vick to stop fumbling the football, they have the potential to be a very good team.
In the North, the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings are 4-1 but I am not counting out Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers yet, and in the West I still think San Francisco is the class of the division.
Over in the AFC, I like the Ravens in the North, and the San Diego Chargers in the West. The South goes to Houston but the enigma is the East. New England is still the team to beat until someone proves otherwise, so I’m staying with them but, surprisingly, I think the next-best team there is the Miami Dolphins.
That’s what I think, what do you think?